Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife)/Chapter 19

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Response to "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 19 - Facsimile #3

A FairMormon Analysis of: For my Wife and Children (Letter to my Wife), a work by author: Anonymous
Chart LTMW facsimile 3-2.png

Response to claims made in "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife"): Chapter 19 - Facsimile #3

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Response to claim: "In the Book of Abraham, Joseph interprets Facsimile #3 as Abraham sitting on Pharaoh’s throne teaching the court the principles of astronomy"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

In the Book of Abraham, Joseph interprets Facsimile #3 as Abraham sitting on Pharaoh’s throne teaching the court the principles of astronomy.

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

The concept that Abraham taught the Egyptians astronomy is found the writings of Josephus and in Pseudo-Eupolemus. Clark notes that "the book's last facsimile (no. 3) depicts Pharaoh-who traditionally claimed exclusive possession of priesthood and kingship (Abr. 1:25-27)-honoring Abraham's priesthood by allowing him to occupy the throne and instruct the court in astronomy (cf. Pseudo-Eupolemus; Josephus, Antiquities 1.viii.2)".[1]

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Question: Are there any known parallels between elements of Joseph's interpretation of Facsimile 3 with other ancient texts?

The following parallels exist between Joseph's interpretations and other ancient texts

Abraham sitting upon Pharoah's throne (Fig 1)

The Qisas includes an account of Abraham being seated next to a king. [2]

Other traditions that state that Abraham sat on a king's throne:

  • Al-Kisa'i 170, p. 396
  • Al-Rabhguzi 64-65, 69, pp. 449-50, 451-52
  • Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 108b, p. 122
  • Book of Jasher 15:22, p. 153
  • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 42:5, 55:6, pp. 97,101; Deuteronomy 2:33, p. 112; Ecclesiastes 4:14.1, p. 114
  • Tanna debe Eliyahu 8-9, p. 76

There is also evidence of semitic adaptation of Osiris to represent Abraham:

Kevin Barney:

The adaptation of an Egyptian psychostasy vignette from chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead in the judgment scene of the Testament of Abraham, the adaptation of the Egyptian original underlying the Demotic Story of Setna in a Jewish popular version (replacing Osiris with Abraham), and the adaptation of a hypocephalus in the Apocalypse of Abraham provide a stunning glimpse of how J-red, living and working in the same era, may have adapted vignettes from a Book of Breathings and a hypocephalus as illustrations of the Book of Abraham, which had come under his care as a part of the ancient transmission of the text. In my view, the Semitic Adaptation theory turns the facsimiles and their interpretations from a perceived weakness of the Book of Abraham into a real strength.[3]


With a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood (Fig 1)

Traditions about Abraham that speak of him holding the priesthood:

  • Al-Nisa'bu'ri 18:4, p. 404
  • Babylonian Talmud Nedarz'm 32b, pp. 120—21
  • Georgius Cedrenus 1, pp. 269—70
  • Kebra Nagast 105, p. 280
  • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 46:5; 55:6, pp. 100, 101; Leviticus 25:6, p. 105; Numbers 4:8; 10:1, p. 109; Song of Songs 5215.1, p. 117
  • Pesz‘kta Rabbati 40:6a, p. 81
  • Philo of Alexandria, De Abrahamo 98, p. 41

Traditions that speak to Abraham being heir to priesthood from fathers:

  • Ibn al-Tayyib 7:6, pp. 254—55
  • Midrash Rabbah Leviticus 25:6, p. 105; Numbers 4:8, p. 109
  • Mishnah Aboth 5:2, p. 62



Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1 (Figure 3)

Foreigners in Egpyt, like Abraham was, are often represented by a Lotus Flower, the figure depicted here, as argued by Dr. Hugh Nibley. Nibley cites Waltraud Guglielmi, a non-LDS Egyptologist whose work supports his assertion specifically referencing divine and human visitors in Egypt.

The lotus, perhaps the richest of all Egyptian symbols, can stand for the purest abstraction, as when it indicates nothing but a date in one tomb or a place in another.[4] In Facsimile 3 we are told that it points to two things, a man and a country, indicating the special guest-to-host relationship between them. Most of the time the lotus announces a party situation, adding brightness to the occasion; etiquette required guests to a formal party to bring a lotus offering to the host--hence the flower served as a token both of invitation and admission[5]. [E.A. Wallis Budge] observed how in the Kerasher Manuscript, in which the person being presented wears exactly the same peculiar lotus headdress as our Shulem (figure 5), "instead of the bullok-skin dripping with blood, which is generally seen suspended near the throne of the god, masses of lotus flowers are represented, giving a totally different aspect to the scene[6]. Yet, while the lotuses "seem to have figured prominently" in formal occasions, according to Aylward Blackman, we still do not understand the flower offerings, any more than we do the combination of lotus stands and small libation vessels such as our figure 3.[7]. It would now seem that these tall and narrow Egyptian ritual stands originated in Cannan.[8]

[. . .]

The lotus is definitely a welcome to Egypt from the king to human and divine visitors; the divinity who received the token reciprocated by responding to the king "I give thee all the lands of thy majesty, the foreign lands to become they slaves. I give thee the birds, symbols of thine enemies"[9] In receiving a lotus, the king in return ritually receives the land itself, while the god in accepting a lotus from the king promises him in return the reverent obedience of his subjects.[10] "The flowers are mostly heraldic plants . . . associated with the crowns of Upper and Lower Egypt," for in some the main purpose of the lotus rites is to "uphold the dominion of the King" as nourisher of the land.[11] Moreover, its significance is valid at every level of society, the louts being a preeminent example of how mythological themes and religious symbolism were familiarly integrated into the everyday life of the Egyptians.[12].

[. . .]

The numerous studies of the Egyptian lots design are remarkably devoid of conflict, since this is one case in which nobody insists on a single definitive interpretation. The points emphasized are (1) The abstract nature of the symbol, containing meanings that are far from obvious at first glance (2) the lotus as denotin high society, especially royal receptions, at which the presnetation of alotus to the host was obligatory and whoed that the bearer had been invted; to be remiss in lotus courtesy was an unpardonable blunder; to be remiss in lotus courtesy was an unpardonable blunder, for anyone who refuests the lotus is under a curse, (3) the lotus as the symbol of Lower Egypt, the Delta with all its patriotic and sentimental attachments ; (4) the lotus as Nefertem, the defender of the border; (5) the lotus as the king or rule, defender, and nourisher of the land; (6) the lotus as the support of the throne at the coronation. It is a token of welcome and invitation to the royal court and the land, proferred by the king himself as guardian of the border.[13]


Abraham reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king's court (Bottom of explanations)

Traditions that state that Abraham learned astronomy from ancient records and from God:

  • 4 Ezra 3:14, p. 61
  • AI—Baidäwi 2:2, 13—14, 18, 20—21, pp. 427, 429—30
  • Al—Kisa"1‘ 51, pp. 386-87
  • Al—Maqdisi 53—54, pp. 355—56
  • Al-Nisa‘bu‘ri 1419—10, p. 399
  • Al-Rabghu’zi 4, 16, pp. 436, 438
  • A1—T_abari 252—7028—9, 16—17; 316—1721—5, pp. 336, 338, 345 A1—T.araf1‘ 31—32, 42—43, 52, pp. 373, 374
  • Al-Tha‘labi 2:1-2, pp. 360—61
  • Al-Ya‘qu'bi 1, p. 330
  • Alcuin, Epistola 83, p. 216
  • Anonymous Christian Chronicle 7, p. 228
  • Apocalypse of Abraham 19:3—9, p. 57
  • Armenian Paraphrase of Genesis: after Genesis 11:30, versions A and B, pp. 284—85 Babylonian Talmud Shabbath 156a—b, p. 119;
  • Yoma 28b, p. 120
  • Book ofIasher 9:17—18, p. 139
  • Book of the Cave of Treasures 25a.1, p. 192
  • Book of the Rolls 122a, pp. 209—10
  • Chronicles of[erahmeel 35:4, p. 134
  • Clementine Recognitions 32, pp. 185—86
  • De computo, p. 226
  • Eupolemus 3—4, p. 8
  • Falasha Story 2, pp. 485—86
  • Fimu'cus Matemus, Mathesis 4 Proem 5; 4.17.2, 5; 4.18.1; 8.35—84.14, pp. 478-84
  • George Hamartolos, pp. 237—38
  • George Syncellus 4, pp. 225
  • Gregory of Nyssa, pp. 187—88
  • Ibn al—Athir 4—5, pp. 422—23
  • Ibn a1~]awzi 1, pp. 418—19
  • Ibn Isha‘q 4—5, 7, pp. 304—5
  • lsha'q ibn Bishr 164A:13, 17; 164821—4, p. 316
  • Josephus, Antiquities of the Iews 1.7.1—2; 1.8.2, pp. 47-48, 49
  • luliilees 11:8; 12:17, pp. 15, 17
  • Midrash Rabbah Genesis 44:12; 48:6; 53:4, pp. 99, 100, 101; Exodus 38:6, p. 104; Numbers 2:12, 14, pp. 107—8
  • Orphica 27—29, pp. 12—13
  • Other Muslim Traditions: Turkish 5, p. 459
  • Pesikta Rabbati 11:4a; 43:1, pp. 78, 82
  • Philo of Alexandria, De Mutatione Nominum 67, 72, p. 36; De Sonmiis 53—54, p. 37; Quaestiones et Solutiones in Genesin 3.42—43, pp. 42—43
  • Pseudo-Philo 18:5, p. 24
  • Qiqel and Yahya 1, 7, pp. 488, 489
  • Qur’an 6:75, p. 292
  • Räwandi 2, p. 415
  • Sefer Yetzirah Gra-Ari 6:7; Short 6:4; Long 6:8, pp. 86—87
  • Sibylline Oracles 3218—28, p. 11
  • Symeon Logothetes 1—2, pp. 249—50 Vettius Valens, Anthologiae 2.29.1-6, pp. 476—77
  • Zohar: Genesis 80a, 86a, pp. 158, 160—61
  • Contrast Zohar: Numbers 148a, p. 163

Traditions that speak to Abraham teaching astronomy to Egyptians:

  • Anonymous Work, p. 10
  • Artapanus, p. 7
  • Eupolemus 8, p. 8—9
  • George Syncellus 5, pp. 225
  • Index A: Thematic 0 545
  • Ioannes Zonaras, p. 261
  • Josephus, Antiquities ofthe Jews 1.8.2, p. 49
  • Zohar: Genesis 83a, p. 160
  • Contrast Chronicles of lerahmeel 35:4, p. 134;
  • Mahbu‘b of Menbidj (Agapius) 4, p. 248

Shulem, one of the king's principal waiters (Fig 5)

Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, "Shulem, One of the King’s Principal Waiters"

John Gee,  Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, (2016)
Shulem is mentioned once in the Book of Abraham. All we are told about him is his name and title. Using onomastics, the study of names, and the study of titles, we can find out more about Shulem than would at first appear. The form of Shulem’s name is attested only at two times: the time period of Abraham and the time period of the Joseph Smith papyri. (Shulem thus constitutes a Book of Abraham bullseye.) If Joseph Smith had gotten the name from his environment, the name would have been Shillem.

Click here to view the complete article


Response to claim: "Joseph Smith "labels figure 1 as Abraham and figure 2 as Pharaoh. Actually this is Osiris"

The author(s) of "For my Wife and Children" ("Letter to my Wife") make(s) the following claim:

Joseph Smith "labels figure 1 as Abraham and figure 2 as Pharaoh. Actually this is Osiris, God of the Underworld, and his goddess wife Isis. The hieroglyphics above each of their heads identify them as such."

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is based upon correct information - The author is providing knowledge concerning some particular fact, subject, or event

Figure 2, identified by Joseph as "King Pharaoh" and figure 4, identified by Joseph as "Prince of Pharaoh" are obviously drawn as female figures. The fact that they are drawn as females is so obvious, in fact, that critics take this as evidence of Joseph's lack of ability to interpret the facsimiles in any fashion whatsoever. The identification of these obvious female figures as male does suggest that Joseph was using the existing image to illustrate a concept.

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Question: What is the correct interpretation of Facsimile 3?

Rhodes: "It represents the judgment of the dead before the throne of Osiris"

According to Michael D. Rhodes in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism,

Facsimile 3 presents a constantly recurring scene in Egyptian literature, best known from the 125th chapter of the Book of the Dead. It represents the judgment of the dead before the throne of Osiris. It is likely that it came at the end of the Book of Breathings text, of which Facsimile 1 formed the beginning, since other examples contain vignettes similar to this. Moreover, the name of Hor, owner of the papyrus, appears in the hieroglyphs at the bottom of this facsimile.

Joseph Smith explained that Facsimile 3 represents Abraham sitting on the pharaoh's throne teaching principles of astronomy to the Egyptian court. Critics have pointed out that the second figure, which Joseph Smith says is the king, is the goddess Hathor (or Isis). There are, however, examples in other papyri, not in the possession of Joseph Smith, in which the pharaoh is portrayed as Hathor. In fact, the whole scene is typical of Egyptian ritual drama in which costumed actors played the parts of various gods and goddesses.

In summary, Facsimile 1 formed the beginning, and Facsimile 3 the end of a document known as the Book of Breathings, an Egyptian religious text dated paleographically to the time of Jesus. Facsimile 2, the hypocephalus, is also a late Egyptian religious text. The association of these facsimiles with the book of Abraham might be explained as Joseph Smith's attempt to find illustrations from the papyri he owned that most closely matched what he had received in revelation when translating the Book of Abraham. Moreover, the Prophet's explanations of each of the facsimiles accord with present understanding of Egyptian religious practices. [14]

Gee and Hauglid: "most Books of Breathings Made by Isis show a man with his hands raised in adoration to a cow"

However, BYU Egyptologist John Gee challenges the notion that Facsimile 3 is associated with Book of the Dead 125,

[B]oth Facsimile 1 and Facsimile 3 are assumed to belong to the Book of Breathings Made by Isis because they accompanied the text in the Joseph Smith Papyri. Yet the contemporary parallel texts of the Book of Breathings Made by Isis belonging to members of the same family have different vignettes associated with them. Instead of a scene like Facsimile 3, most Books of Breathings Made by Isis show a man with his hands raised in adoration to a cow. This indicates that the facsimiles of the Book of Abraham do not belong to the Book of Breathings. [15]


Question: What are the criticisms related to Facsimile 3?

The following are common criticisms associated with Facsimile 3

  • The scene depicted is a known Egyptian vignette which Egyptologists state has nothing to do with Abraham.
  • Joseph indicated that specific characters in the facsimile confirmed the identities that he assigned to specific figures.
  • Joseph identified two obviously female figures as "King Pharaoh" and "Prince of Pharaoh."

The majority of those who bring forth these issues are not experts on Egyptian writing or art, so you must choose which expert you want to believe

Like almost all of us, the majority of those who bring forth these issues are not experts on Egyptian writing or art. So, this presents an interesting problem--if we are going to take an "academic" or "intellectual" approach to the problem, both believers and critics must all decide to trust an expert. The problem that we immediately encounter is that there are multiple "experts," and these experts do not all agree. Therefore, we are left to decide which "expert" we will trust. There are LDS experts who believe the Book of Abraham is a genuine artifact, and that it testifies to Joseph Smith' status as a prophet. Non-LDS experts obviously do not agree with that.

Latter-day Saints, as believers unequipped to deal with Egyptology, are not able to really assess that information for ourselves. We would need 15-20 years of schooling to do it. So, we can either trust our spiritual future to the experts of our choice, or we can rely ultimately upon revelation.

Critics' claim that Facsimile #3 alone is enough to settle the question of whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet. This is very convenient for them, because it allows one to focus only on one (very complex) issue that only a few people have the tools to understand. It is, in a sense, to put the critic in an "unassailable position." The critics has made his or her choice, and does not want to debate it or be told he or she is wrong, or return to the question.

And, what the critic might consider a "slam dunk" or "vital point," might (from a believer's or some Egyptologist's point of view) really not be so conclusive OR so vital.


Question: What have been the responses to Joseph's interpretations of Facsimile 3?

The identification of these obvious female figures as male does suggest that Joseph was using the existing image to illustrate a concept

Figure 2, identified by Joseph as "King Pharaoh" and figure 4, identified by Joseph as "Prince of Pharaoh" are obviously drawn as female figures. The fact that they are drawn as females is so obvious, in fact, that critics take this as evidence of Joseph's lack of ability to interpret the facsimiles in any fashion whatsoever. Since the figures would obviously have appeared as females even to Joseph's eye, why then are they interpreted as two of the primary male figures?

Regarding the identification of these figures, John Gee notes,

Facsimile 3 has received the least attention. The principal complaint raised by the critics has been regarding the female attire worn by figures 2 and 4, who are identified as male royalty. It has been documented, however, that on certain occasions, for certain ritual purposes, some Egyptian men dressed up as women. [16]

The identification of these obvious female figures as male does suggest that Joseph was using the existing image to illustrate a concept.

Ritner: "Smith’s hopeless translation also turns the goddess Maat into a male prince"

Robert K. Ritner, Professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago, states that "Smith’s hopeless translation also turns the goddess Maat into a male prince, the papyrus owner into a waiter, and the black jackal Anubis into a Negro slave."[17]

Larry E. Morris notes the following in response to criticism leveled by Professor Ritner at the Book of Abraham,

Furthermore, Ritner does not inform his readers that certain elements of the Book of Abraham also appear in ancient or medieval texts. Take, for example, Facsimile 3, which depicts, as Ritner puts it, "enthroned Abraham lecturing the male Pharaoh (actually enthroned Osiris with the female Isis)." [18] In what Ritner describes as nonsense, Joseph Smith claimed that Abraham is "sitting upon Pharoah's throne . . . reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy" (Facsimile 3, explanation).

Clearly, Joseph Smith's interpretation did not come from Genesis (where there is no discussion of Abraham doing such a thing). From Ritner's point of view, therefore, this must qualify as one of Joseph's "uninspired fantasies." But going a layer deeper reveals interesting complexities. A number of ancient texts, for example, state that Abraham taught astronomy to the Egyptians. Citing the Jewish writer Artapanus (who lived prior to the first century BC), a fourth-century bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius, states: "They were called Hebrews after Abraham. [Artapanus] says that the latter came to Egypt with all his household to the Egyptian king Pharethothes, and taught him astrology, that he remained there twenty years and then departed again for the regions of Syria."22

As for Abraham sitting on a king's throne—another detail not mentioned in Genesis—note this example from Qisas al-Anbiya' (Stories of the Prophets), an Islamic text compiled in AD 1310: "The chamberlain brought Abraham to the king. The king looked at Abraham; he was good looking and handsome. The king honoured Abraham and seated him at his side."23 [19]

Morris "Ritner may counter that such parallels do not establish the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. That is true, but certainly they deserve some mention"

Morris concludes,

Ritner may counter that such parallels do not establish the authenticity of the Book of Abraham. That is true, but certainly they deserve some mention. At the very least, these parallels show that "all of this nonsense" is not really an appropriate description of Joseph Smith's interpretation. Fairness demands that Ritner, in his dismissal of the content of the Book of Abraham, at least mention similarities between it and other texts about Abraham and point readers to other sources of information. [20]

Facsimile 3
Fig. 1. Abraham sitting upon Pharaoh’s throne, by the politeness of the king, with a crown upon his head, representing the Priesthood, as emblematical of the grand Presidency in Heaven; with the scepter of justice and judgment in his hand.
Fig. 2. King Pharaoh, whose name is given in the characters above his head.
Fig. 3. Signifies Abraham in Egypt as given also in Figure 10 of Facsimile No. 1.
Fig. 4. Prince of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as written above the hand.
Fig. 5. Shulem, one of the king’s principal waiters, as represented by the characters above his hand.
Fig. 6. Olimlah, a slave belonging to the prince.
Abraham is reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king’s court.


Notes

  1. E. Douglas Clark, "Abraham," Encyclopedia of Mormonism off-site
  2. Bradley J. Cook, "The Book of Abraham and the Islamic Qisas al-Anbiya< (Tales of the Prophets) Extant Literature," Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 127—46.
  3. Barney, Kevin L. "Astronomy, Papyrus, and Covenant > The Facsimiles and Semitic Adaptation of Existing Sources" see https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1098&index=10.
  4. Kurt H. Sethe, Urkunden des alten Reichs, 4 vols. (Leipzig:Hinrichs, 1932)1:111
  5. Nibley, "A New Look at the Pearl of Great Price," IE 72 (September 1969: 89-93)
  6. Budge, Book of the Dea (Papyrus of Hunefer)34.
  7. Aylward H. Blackman, "A Study of Liturgy Celebrated in the Temple of Aton at El-Amarna," in Recuel d'etudes Egyptologiques dediees a la memoire de Jean Francois Champollion (Paris: Champion, 1922), 517, 521.
  8. Smuel Yeivin, "Canaanite Ritual Vessels in Egyptian Cultic Practices," JEA 62 (1976): 114.
  9. Waltraund Guglielmi, "Zur Symbolik des 'Dargringes des StrauBes der sh.t'" ZAS 103 (1976): 108.
  10. Ibid., 110-11
  11. Ibid., 111-12
  12. Ibid
  13. See Nibley, Hugh "Abraham in Egypt" FARMS: Provo, UT (1981) PRINT p.444-450
  14. Michael Rhodes, in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., "Book of Abraham," Encyclopedia of Mormonism off-site
  15. John Gee and Brian M. Hauglid, "Facsimile 3 and Book of the Dead 125," Astronomy, Papyrus and Covenant, Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
  16. John Gee, "The Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," Neal A. Maxwell Institute. Footnote 17 states: 17. "More information on this will be forthcoming, but one readily available instance is recorded in Apuleius, Metamorphoses 11.8."
  17. Robert K. Ritner, “The Breathing Permit of Hor Among the Joseph Smith Papyri," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, (University of Chicago, 2003), p. 162, note 4. Dr. Ritner is one of Dr. John Gee's former professors at Yale. Ritner's article in the Journal of Near eastern Studies is highly critical of his former student's involvement with any LDS apologetic effort on the part of the Book of Abraham, specifically because he was not included in a peer review.
  18. JNES, p. 162
  19. Larry E. Morris, "The Book of Abraham: Ask the Right Questions and Keep On Looking (Review of: “The ‘Breathing Permit of Hor’ Thirty-four Years Later.” Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 97–119)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 355–380. off-site
  20. Larry E. Morris, "The Book of Abraham: Ask the Right Questions and Keep On Looking (Review of: “The ‘Breathing Permit of Hor’ Thirty-four Years Later.” Dialogue 33/4 (2000): 97–119)," FARMS Review 16/2 (2004): 355–380. off-site